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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Jul 13, 2011 9:11am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH 1970

Let me preface this post by saying I really love Dark Star and find it an endlessly interesting,brilliant piece of music,and enjoy almost every version that the band played between 68'-74' and a few later ones.I can completely appreciate LIA and BK's take on the more structured,less dense versions,also having to take into account the the overall sound of the band and it's different lineups affect on the song.It isn't like I need all noise and bombast,I enjoy the quiet,introspective feel of the 70' versions,I just like the feeling of anything could jump off at any second vibe of the later versions.As for the Feeling Groovy/UJB,Tighten Up,once again it isn't that I don't like them,to the contrary there are some that I find very exciting and a perfect fit,it feels like they became a crutch,and if they were going to do that why not widen the scope of songs quoted,I heard them reference Grazing in the Grass once or twice,I just found the frequency of those jams dulled their impact.Bk made a very good point in stating how themes can act as focal point for improvisation and thus effect the improvisation,that is something I am going to have to explore by listening to different versions with this in mind.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 13, 2011 1:48pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH 1970

It is true that Dark Star was somewhat "static" in 1970 - there is a formula there, and it doesn't 'develop' that much between January & November, as far as new improvisational areas being discovered, outside of the "space" section.
Of course, someone like me might argue that it stayed that way for a year because it was just right! Then again, the fact that the band only played Dark Star five times between Dec '70 and Aug '71 indicates that they may have been getting tired of the 'formula' themselves - in that period, the Other One became the main testing-ground for new improv styles.

The band seems to have felt that a themed jam like Feelin' Groovy or Tighten Up was an essential part of Dark Star at that point; they never fail to bring one in. One funny example is 2/8/70, where they manage to get all the way to the reentry to the verse without a thematic jam, then seem to realize "oops, we forgot something!" and go back to Feelin' Groovy for a bit. The 2/14/70 version is even more blatant, as Weir & Lesh try to drop in Feelin' Groovy no less than three times in the jam - Garcia keeps warding them off, but finally succumbs. (The Taping Compendium review speculates that he was intentionally trying to avoid 'repeating' the Star from the previous night. It's examples like these, though, where I agree the band may be struggling a bit and not finding the flow - though those can be some of the most interesting versions.)

So it may have been a crutch, but it was a planned & deliberate one that the band thought worked at the time. Remember, these themed jams are frequent & familiar to us, but would have been new to 1970 audiences, who seem to have received them rapturously. Check out the way the crowd cheers the jams in the 4/24 or 9/17 versions, for instance!

(And, though constantly returning to the Feelin' Groovy jam is kind of a 'cheat' from true improvisation, the band obviously loved it - after they stopped playing it in Dark Star, they put in the China>Rider bridge for two years in '73/74 - and audiences clearly went ecstatic when they heard it there.)

This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-07-13 20:48:03

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 13, 2011 1:49pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH 1970

On the subject of audience reaction to thematic jams, "Tighten Up" is a very interesting case, I think. On the 7/12/70 that I posted about to start the thread, some people in the audience more or less freak out during the Tighten Up in Dancin, and I really don't know if they are recognizing the riff from a fairly popular and well-known record, or if they are just responding to the music.

I think the real answer is actually both, and that the recognition was subconscious, not conscious, for most listeners. The Dead's "Tighten Up" jams certainly don't sound like a cover of the Archie Bell tune, and its not just the absence of vocals. Jerry's lead lines in the Tighten Up jam seem to be entirely his own, I don't hear them as originating from the recording - it seems just the rhythm guitar part is what the GD took.

It is natural when listening to music to focus on the "leading melody" and Jerry's guitar usually has that role in the Dead's jams. I think the Tighten Up jam as used by the GD worked a really cool magic trick on the listeners - it made a seemingly improvised piece of music suddenly sound perfect and just-right and totally satisfying. Familiarity is a really powerful element in music, in general people like something more when they hear it multiple times, and it is a pretty good trick to produce the enjoyment of something familiar within the framework of an improvisation.

In other words, for a "typical" listener in 1970, the Tighten Up jam would have the best of both worlds - the newness and excitement of improvisation combined with the familiarity and satisfaction of a known theme, and without the listeners being aware of the precise reasons for their response.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 13, 2011 2:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH 1970

I agree - I'm sure no one in the audience would recognize, say, Feelin' Groovy - but there's no doubt about how they reacted when hearing one. The Dead had a knack for doing these sequences that *sounded* familiar even if you couldn't quite place it (heck, we're still wondering about some of those today...) - and their habit was often to place these after a passage of formlessness, or building tension, so that these happy melodic passages would be kind of a release for the audience.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Jul 13, 2011 1:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: TDIH 1970

Listening back as a fully realized history definitely puts a different spin on it,but there is nothing we can do about that.I'm sure that seeing it live was an exciting and in the moment experience,and I would think the band might have viewed it as a work in progress,but looking back as a body of work we run it through our filters and hear it how we hear it.What you were saying about the band forcing in the themes is how I heard it,when it wasn't organic it seemed forced and unnecessary.I feel that a composition designed to be open ended and exploratory doesn't need anymore touchstones than the theme that already exists in the song and the set vibe around the vocal parts.
I believe the scarcity of the song in that Dec.-Aug span reflected a lack of knowing where to go with it and maybe some boredom setting in,I also felt that the Other One was equally lacking in 70'-71',Keith's arrival breathed new life into both songs.